Farmers must help fix huge inequalities in SA – Agri SA

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Agri SA president Dan Kriek has urged the country’s farmers to play their part in fixing the huge inequalities in South Africa. In a strongly-worded message to delegates attending the organisation’s congress currently underway at Maslow Time Square in Pretoria, Kriek said: “You’re one of the privileged few and you may have worked hard to get here, but history also played a role.”

Kriek, who was also re-elected as president of Agri SA, said: “We understand that apartheid and colonialism had a devastating effect on the lives of black South Africans, and we take co-responsibility to fix that.”

Minister Thoko Didiza with Agri SA president Dan Kriek, cotton farmer Phineas Gumede and Dr Patrice Motsepe during the Agri SA congress in Pretoria.

With reference to the #ImStaying Facebook group which has united more than 600 000 South Africans, Kriek, who served on Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa’s advisory panel on land reform and agriculture, said he remains committed to the country despite the many challenges. “The only reason I’m not part of the group is because I was not planning to leave in the first place.”

An earlier study by the World Bank has revealed that South Africa has failed to address issues of domestic inequality. It concludes that South Africa is the most unequal out of 149 countries surveyed, and what is even more worrying, that inequality has been on the increase in the last 25 years of democracy.

The World Bank found that although Mzansi has made progress in reducing poverty since 1994, the trajectory of poverty reduction was reversed between 2011 and 2015. Poverty is consistently high among black South Africans, the less educated, the unemployed, female-headed households, large families and children.

Delegates of Free State Agriculture attending Agri SA’s congress in Pretoria.

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During his presidential address, Kriek also placed great emphasis on political and economic uncertainties. “South Africa has not been this uncertain since the 1980’s. The red lights are on for our economy. As a country, we need to take active steps of redress. In agriculture policy uncertainty, safety, climate change and the economic effects thereof are some of the issues plaguing the sector.”

Kriek believes the only way to counter this is to forge what he described as a new future based on inclusivity. “We need a revolution of inclusivity. There are lots of opportunities, but we need to work very hard.”

Also attending the congress is Thoko Didiza, the minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development. Didiza said that she was delighted to see so many familiar, but also new faces in agriculture since she previously served as agricultural minister from 1999 and 2006. “New faces represent hope… The vision that has been guiding the sector is still valid today – a united, prosperous agricultural sector.”

Didiza agreed with Kriek that policy certainty must be addressed, and also said that inclusivity in agriculture is an important area “that should not be avoided or window-dressed”. The minister said: “The agricultural sector is central to the economy. The African market is one of the biggest markets we can participate in.”

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